Eric Calvillo: “It has been like a dream come true.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
By Michael Lewis
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — For more than two years, Eric Calvillo has worked hard in practice, trying to impress Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese and his coaching staff that he deserved to belong on the field.
For two more than two North American Soccer League seasons, the 19-year-old midfielder has been as patient as a talented, young performer can be.
And for more than 90 minutes — regulation and stoppage time — on Saturday night, Calvillo proved that the wait has been worth it and then some.
The former U.S. Under-17 international midfielder played an influential role in the Cosmos’ 3-1 home win over Miami FC at MSU Park. He scored twice — once in each half, including the game-winner — to lift the Cosmos to a 3-1 win over Miami FC.
That gave Calvillo three goals in his past two games.
Calvillo’s production and overall box-to-box performance didn’t surprise head coach Giovanni Savarese.
“Eric has always has been a player who has been very competitive, always hungry, wanting to play,” he said. “He has been patient waiting for his opportunity. Last year he had a chance to step in and he had a fantastic game against Minnesota, scoring a goal.
“Little by little this year, he’s been waiting for that opportunity and when he had it he took advantage of it. Every game he gets better and better. Today, the second goal was fantastic. He’s playing in a different position. He’s playing on the right side. He’s done very, very well. He’s continuing to develop and grow.”
Miami FC can attest to that as Calvillo will be one difficult player to knock out of the lineup.
“It has been like a dream come true,” he said of the past month. “Thankfully, I am getting my opportunity to play, especially with the injuries that we’ve had and the guys that aren’t here. Thankfully, he has given his trust and confidence in me to be able to play me and start and just trying to work very hard for my team scoring goals.”
Calvillo said putting the ball into the net was “something that I haven’t done in a while. I am really happy to get back into that and helping my team to win in any possible way.”
During a 15-minute span in the second half, the 5-7, 138-lb. Calvillo took center stage for the Cosmos. First, he rammed home a rebound of Ayoze’s penalty kick that bounded off the crossbar. It was no mistake that Calvillo was at the right place at the right time when he sprinted from outside the penalty area to the right side of the penalty to give the Cosmos a 1-0 lead in the 64th minute.
“It’s all on the player taking the PK,” Calvillo said. “I step maybe a couple of steps back from the 18. When he starts making his run, that’s when I start making my run. so I timed it by that.”
Actually, Calvillo gave Savarese credit for reminding him to bolt into the area.
“He’s screaming at me from behind,” he said. “I turn around and he’s telling me to run in and that’s exactly what I did. The ball came right to me and I finished my chance.”
After Miami equalized, right back Ryan Richter told Calvillo that he had another goal left in him.
Calvillo responded, saying thatthe first goal boosted his self-worth to drill a 25-yard shot home that snapped a 1-1 draw.
“It gave me the full confidence that I needed,” he added. “After scoring that first goal, I knew that I could keep continuing to help my team in any possible way, especially after their first goal.”
So, the Cosmos have kicked off the fall season with a win, a result over the spring season champion.
“Its huge, especially since last season, our home record hasn’t been great,” Calvillo said. “To start the fall season at home and to get the three points, especially a team like Miami, a great team, credit to them. They play hard. It’s fantastic by the group. We just have to continue the work that we have been doing for the past three games.”
Miami FC (11-3-3) has suffered only three defeats this year, two inflicted by the Cosmos. That could be vital come playoff time in the fall. That’s a long way off, but its never too early to play psychological games.
“I think especially playing a team like Miami, them being the best, it gives us that boost that we want to go out and show them that we want to be there,” Calvillo said. “At the end of the season, we’re going to be there. We’re going to be close to them or even above them.”
Right now, the Cosmos are above Miami, thanks to Calvillo’s patience, persistence and goal-scoring heroics.